The Indian Fiction Top 25

Jerry Pinto, poet, journalist Who Actually Reads, and author, recently put together a list of the 25 Best Books in Indian fiction (English language, no translations):

1. Vikram Chandra: Love and Longing in Bombay
2. Aubrey Menen: The Fig Tree
3. Rohinton Mistry: Tales from Firozhsha Baug
4. Jhumpa Lahiri: The Interpreter of Maladies
5. Hari Kunzru: The Impressionist
6. G V Desani: All About H Hatterr
7. Vikram Seth: The Golden Gate
8. Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children
9. R K Narayan: Swami and Friends
10. Mulk Raj Anand: Coolie
11. Kamala Markandaya: Nectar in a Sieve
12. Anita Desai: Baumgartner’s Bombay
13. Amitav Ghosh: The Shadow Lines
14. I Allan Sealy: The Trotternama
15. Shashi Tharoor: The Great Indian Novel
16. Githa Hariharan: When Dreams Travel
17. Kiran Nagarkar: Raavan & Eddie
18. Shashi Deshpande: That Long Silence
19. Arundhathi Roy: The God of Small Things
20. Raja Rao: Kanthapura
21. Khushwant Singh: Delhi
22. Nisha Da Cunha: Old Cypress
23. Ruskin Bond: The Room on the Roof
24. Gita Mehta: The River Sutra
25. Indi Rana: The Devil in the Dustbin

Pretty eclectic, there, and much room for debate–but it’s a fun list. Suggestions, anybody?


  1. First, I’d drop two: Indi Rana’s The Devil In the Dustbin (children’s books shouldn’t qualify),and Gita Mehta’s The River Sutra (too much exotica there). In their place: Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English August and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s The Householder (or Heat And Dust, if you will).Next: surely Khushwant Singh ought to be represented by Train To Pakistan, and not Delhi? And since the subject is Indian fiction, shouldn’t Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate be substituted by A Suitable Boy?And finally: Nisha da Cunha’s Old Cypress…or Mukul Kesavan’s Looking Through Glass?

  2. Some of these books i have read… Baumgartner’s bombay is an extremely boring read. Not to be in the top list.If this list is not restricted to fiction, i would definitely add louis fisher’s biography of Gandhi

  3. You would need to have read about a hundred BOOKS of FICTION in ENGLISH by INDIAN writers to even be able to make the list with any degree of authority. And anyone who has read a hundred novels in English by Indian writers is reading too narrowly to be a trustworthy judge of literary merit…I’m being unnecessarily cranky. It’s an interesting looking list (relatively low positions for “Midnight’s Children” and “God of Small Things” duly noted). Only one book by Rohinton Mistry? Weird.And I don’t believe that anyone who’s read “English, August” could seriously leave it off the list. It’s tied with “Pnin” as the funniest book I’ve ever read.These lists are as fun to make (and read) as they are to gripe about.elck

  4. well, i feel that Amitav Ghosh’s Shadow Lines needs to be higher up in the list. And the poor guy, just because he does not write only about india, is largely ignored by the list. As against naipaul, who is happily enjoying past birthday honours in the UK and comes here once in a while, and that too to criticize “the indian people”. ridiculous!

  5. Whimsical, rather than eclectic. Upamanyu Chatterjee should have found a place, especially for ‘The Last Burden’.There are several titles in there which didn’t do much for me (nor, presumably, for anyone else either).A list originating from an individual makes little sense; unless you’re someone like FR Leavis, of course.Partisan

  6. The only ones I’ve read are Golden Gate and Midnight’s Children. But I’ve read appallingly little Indian literature – heck, I’ve read more Serbo-Croatian fiction, and my site doesn’t even have an Indian literature section!I think I’ll go raid the library tomorrow for all of these.

  7. I don’t think Tharoor’s book deserves to be on the list. And Lahiri should not be so high on the list.Also, I would put at least one of Mistry’s first two novels in the list, if not both. Also, can Naipaul be considered Indian? If yes, then one should definitely have “A HOUSE FOR MR.BISWAS” up there.

  8. It’s surprising to see not only the reviewer but even most of the comments here leave out, and in that process undermine, the incredible worth of the God of Small Things. I’d imagine that novel to be perhaps the best I have read – in style, structure, language and, most of all, ambition.

  9. Aah, yes. A lovely collection indeed, but out of the lot 19 of them are really anthropological treatises disguised as novels worth reading if you took the proper nouns out and only if you’re doing a thesis on ‘Indianness’. Which makes me come to the conclusion that alas, we are celebrating just a genre — barring a truly wonderful six in the list (which I’m slightly inebriated to name and spend my time on) — of writing called Indo-Anglian writing. Which frankly turns me not on unless I’m at the United Nations championing my nation-state. Which, just in case there are sober people out there, I’m not.

  10. Actually, if you’re gonna go on and on about this — without allowing the list to include verna-fookin-cular fiction — then we’ve got the best ghetto thing going since the one in Warsaw, or the other one in Delhi called Chittaranjan Park!

  11. Better late than “ever”.A fairly well spaced and well placed selection of the moderm Indian spectrum of novelists, which robs the modest twinkle out of the author’s “ecclectic” “fun”list. Well chosen books covering all necessary themes, narrative techniques, gender and cultural issues for social cerebration. Just as a few other writers to this blog felt disappointed on finding some one close to their “intellectual heart” left out of Mr. Pinto’s rank list, I believe that Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe (2001) or The Better Man (1999)would be a salient and healthy inclusion. Replacing whom/what? depends on the need to replace w.r.t. current socio-aesthetic suje and narrative. But Mr. Pinto, if I suggested a reading list to my M.Phil., scholars on Indian Fiction in English would recommend your list – with a couple of “ammendments”. trends and

  12. A friend of mine gave me ‘If god was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramanian and ‘Trust me’ by Rajashree from her little library and said they are good fictions and will help me bring back the passion for reading.Both these books have been selected for the Golden Quill Awards. I don’t know which author to vote for cause I like both thier writings. If you want to vote, here’s the link

  13. My top 10- 1)Midnights children , 2)A house for mr.biswas , 3)Shadow lines , 4)God of small things , 5)interpreter of maladies 6)A suitable boy 7)A fine balance 8)Train to pakistan 9)Trotter nama 10)In custody

  14. Jhumpa Lahiri & Hari Kunzuru are Indians neither by birth nor by citizenship.Following should also be there:Train to Pakistan, English August, Heat and Dust, A Suitable Boy, A Fine Balance, the hungry Tides

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